How do Trump's insults to women affect ourselves our daughters? And what can you do?
How do you feel about your body? Your face? Your hair? Other aspects of your appearance?
I can honestly say I have never met a woman, no matter how incredibly beautiful she may be to my eyes and those of most people, who is 100 percent satisfied with her appearance. It seems every woman has at least one thing she would like to "improve" or change about the way she looks.
In fact, complaining about the way one looks is a powerful way to bond with other women. Conversations such as "Oh, you're not fat! You should see me in my bathing suit!" or "I hate my hair. I wish it was curly/straight/long/thicker/thinner," are extremely common.
But it isn't just about bonding with other women. Negative self-assessment is communicated to women in various ways.
Perhaps, our mothers are not satisfied with their looks and have passed that insecurity on to us. Maybe we've been exposed to the fashion industry through popular magazines that take a horrific toll on girls’ and women's self-esteem.
The negative effects of this preoccupation with appearance can impact us at a very young age. According to a study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, 42 percent of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner. That means a large percentage of girls who have not even begun puberty are dissatisfied with their bodies.
Further, girls' and women's focus on their own appearance takes precedence over other qualities they might cultivate. Over half the girls between the ages of 18-25 surveyed in one study said they would prefer to be run over by a truck than to be fat, two-thirds indicated they would rather be mean or stupid.
The pressure to look a certain way has been with women for thousands of years. The only thing that changes over time is the specific standards we are expected to conform to.
In recent history, we have seen the flat-chested ideal of the flapper girl followed by the buxom babes of the 50’s, followed by the rail thin ideal of the 60’s which was followed by the fitness craze of the 70’s.
Fast forward to today, a time when breast implants are ubiquitous and most young women are trying to obtain a big butt.
Increasingly, we are witnessing a push back from women who refuse to diet or Botox in order to obtain acting roles. And many magazines have been called to the carpet for heavy-handed photoshopping.
But we are also living in the time of Trump. We now have a President who has literally rated women on a scale from one to ten.
In his twisted and self-serving view, beautiful women such as Charlize Theron and Halle Berry are not "tens." The delight he takes in ranking women by their appearance is indicative of the power play inherent in beauty standards.
I’m hardly the first to say that Trump reminds me of a sexual perpetrator — both in the way he expresses sexual attraction for his own daughter, and in the mean-spirited way he passes judgment on the bodies of women. Wouldn’t it be poetic justice if he were to be judged in a bathing suit pageant?
If only his voice did not echo that of many other men. But the truth is that he simply says what a lot of men think. Not all men. And probably not even most men.
But enough men support the idea of judging women by the way they look that young girls entering the dating arena feel pressured to conform to the standards expressed in those judgments — whatever they may be.
And those standards do vary so often it almost seems like the objective is to keep girls and women feeling insecure and unsure as to whether they "measure up." If the beauty standards are ever changing, then you can't be sure if you "pass" the test or not, can you?
As women, we could find ourselves feeling even more pressure to conform to a particular beauty standard now that Trump is in the White House.
His careless and often deliberate insults may find their mark in our own conflicted sense of self. What is even more disturbing is how his misogynistic speech will affect the young women who will hear him and not have the adult tools to reject his denigrating and superficial view of women.
If ever there was a time when we must dispense with our own body shame, it is now. We owe it to the young women coming up after us. Now more than ever, they need us to model what it means to love ourselves exactly the way we are.
We can start by rejecting the idea that beauty is a number or that certain physical characteristics are superior to others. If we don’t allow ourselves to be controlled by the judgments of others, we will provide the young women in our lives with a powerful example that can benefit them for the rest of their lives.
And hopefully, if enough of us reject the idea that a woman’s worth is defined by how she looks, we can change the culture to one that values and appreciates diversity in all things including appearance.
Veronica Monet, ACS coaches women on body confidence and sexual self-acceptance. Contact her for more info: Veronica@TheShameFreeZone.com.